So, I’ve been going to yoga for several years now. I’ve tried a few different types including vinyasa, bikram, kundalini, aerial/anti-gravity, and hatha. My favorite one is vinyasa. Especially when they heat the room to make it a more intense session. I always try to get someone to come along with me. It always astounds me how resistant people are to trying yoga. It seems they have this strange misconception that yoga is nothing but a lot of sitting around on the floor with your legs crossed chanting “ommmmm” over and over. To be honest, yes, yoga is quite meditative, but it’s also one of the best workouts I have ever tried. I wrote a little scenario with the purpose of getting people to see yoga from a different perspective. When you read it, I hope that you feel as if you are in the studio. And so, without further ado….
“All Bodies Rise” by Max Tamburi
The second you step inside and set your foot on the wooden floor, the worries you carry begin to melt away. In fact, it’s encouraged. The lights are all off save for a few candles in each corner which cause each lithe body to cast whimsical shadows on the walls and across the floor. Up front, a young woman wearing a sport’s bra and loose pants leads you and your seventy or so peers in the opening sun salutations.
“Breathe in, in, in. Hold your breath, and together exhale. HAAAAA!”
A cacophony of sound reverberates against the brick walls and the first bead of sweat buds and drops to the floor like the first drop of a summer rain.
There are windows in the front of the room that face the street outside. They are taller than any man, and they are original to the building; they are made of wood with brass fixtures. They are open to keep the room from getting too hot, or too humid, or too smelly even. Pale linen curtains hung from stalwart curtain rods billow softly with the breeze that floats in from outside and then curl back ever so slightly as if punched in their bilious linen stomachs by our collective exhales.
Some people begin fluttering their lips as the heat within them starts to rise and burn as they hold their arms above their heads, as they press the sole of one foot into the inside of the opposite thigh. They keep the eyes closed and the head tilted up towards the ceiling. Sweat is now cascading freely from every pore. An imaginary string holds you up as you sway ever so slightly as you try to keep balance on one foot. It hurts, it’s uncomfortable, but it’s so good too.
For all the serenity in this room, one would never be able to guess that beyond the thin three hundred thread count of those pale linens just one story below, lies the gritty colorful madness that is St. Mark’s Place. Hordes of NYU students, homeless, wannabe hipsters, actual hipsters who smell worse than the homeless, punks and wannabe punks, tourists, drunks, fashionistas, smokers, junkies and miscreants or any combination thereof and many others come together to eat pizza at one dollar a slice. In New York, that’s cheap. In the 1830’s, right after the Civil War, St. Mark’s Place was known as the center of Little Germany. Decades later, it was home to secret speakeasies where people went to drink away prohibition. In the 1950’s it was a hotspot for Jazz. In the 80’s it was the place where all the “cool kids” went to hang out. The latter seems to have sort of stuck, and here you are, smack in the middle of all that history squatting down into an invisible chair, feeling fire in your thighs and cursing the instructor with every foul word in your vocabulary.
“Breathe through it,” she says calmly.
You reply, “HAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!”
Your hands are outstretched in front of you and your feet are planted firmly on the ground. There is a symphony of breath all around like an ocean during a storm, and you are shaking with it.
Finally, you can let go of this posture and you dive forward, with the crown of your head pointing towards the floor, knees slightly bent and arms dangling loose in front of you. The sweat trickles off your forehead in a stream and splatters on your mat leaving a little sunburst of salty water. Behind you, you can see your fellow yogi experiencing it all for his or her self. Your eyes should be closed, but sometimes it’s more interesting to see who is falling over, or which girl didn’t wear the right bra, or even just to see the rainbow of different colored mats going back row after row.
Now you’re in your final Asana, or the corpse pose, and as you lay there all splayed out with your eyes closed, chin slightly tucked and your chest rising as you engage your breath rhythmically. In. Out. Up. Down. As you lay there in this odd euphoric state, melting into the floor with your yoga mates, the instructor begins to ring the Tibetan Singing Bowl at the front of the studio. The sound begins small and thin and slow crescendos into a sonorous or penetrating pitch. It hums to you, much like you did throughout the practice, and it engulfs you leaving a tingle on your skin. The class is over; you lay in darkness, save for the romantic flicker of burning wicks.
ps- I usually practice at yoga to the people